Nina Campbell obe speaks to wells interiors

Nina Campbell obe speaks to wells interiors

Nina Campbell needs no introduction. With a career that began in 1963 under the mentorship of renowned interior designer John Fowler, Nina has spent over six decades at the pinnacle of the design world. Her illustrious journey includes working with the late Mark Birley on the original Annabel’s nightclub, collaborating with NEXT Home on an exquisite range of furniture accessible to all, and building a family-run business with her daughter, Alice, and son, Max. It’s no wonder Nina Campbell has been honoured with an OBE. In our exclusive interview, Nina opens up about her remarkable career, her inspirations, and the secrets behind her enduring success. 

Read on to discover the story of a true design icon…

Nina Campbell OBE
Huge congratulations on your OBE. you must be thrilled! When did you find out?  

I found out the night before the trooping. A friend of mine had seen the papers in the middle of the night and said congratulations and I didn’t know what he was talking about. I looked on the list in the morning and there I found myself. It was lovely. A very proud, exciting moment. It’s lovely for our trade to be recognised.



(L-R) Alice, Max, Nina and Rita
You’ve been designing and creating for decades, please tell us about your design journey. 

I went to work for John Fowler [of Colefax and Fowler] in 1963, so quite a long time. I knew what I wanted to do, and it was the only thing I was remotely interested in. We had moved house a lot, myself, my mother and father, all around London’s Belgravia. We went from Lowndes Square to Wilton Street to Chester Street to Chapel Street. Always roughly the same type of house in London and my mother always did the design – she loved doing up houses. There wasn’t a lot of people doing interior design back then in the 1950’s. You usually moved with everything in the house, like the curtains. You didn’t leave it behind and start again. Also, it was hard to get fabric after the war. She found a bolt of saffron yellow silk noil which she used to make our curtains, and they came with us for three or four houses. We had a chic dark green art felt as the staircase with brass rods which were polished once a week. They were always gleaming. The drawing rooms were always duck egg blue with the yellow curtains. I have always loved colour.


What does it mean to you to have a family run business? 

My son, Max, and my youngest daughter, Alice, work for me at the business. My eldest daughter, Rita, has her own interior design business. I think it’s rather nice to have a family business. My son was looking for a job and I was looking for someone, and he said he’d like to join me which was fantastic news. I would never have dared ask. 


Please describe the Nina Campbell brand in three words. 

Quality, witty, useful.


Nina Campbell x NEXT Home
Have you always USED wallpaper IN YOUR PROJECTS? 

I do use it a lot, but it depends on the rooms. I don’t like to go from one busy wallpaper to another. I think one always has to have a break between rooms. I also like non-busy wallpaper when you want to hang pictures. I don’t like hanging art work over something too over-crowded. I always had a wallpapered bedroom as a child. Lots of Toile de Jouy in various colours, all of which I chose myself. The problem about teaming fabric and wallpaper is if it matches exactly, it doesn’t match, because the width of a roll of wallpaper and the width of a roll of fabric are different. If I use a patterned wallpaper, I will use a plainer fabric as a curtain, and visa versa. I think it’s very disturbing to the eye when there is a mismatched wall and curtain.


Do you have a best-seller in the collection?

For many, many years we had a wallpaper called Braulen which was our top runner. It was a sort of tree of life design. We’ve got one which has been a runaway success in all its colours, and it’s called Foret, and it has a coloured background and all four colours are in the top-sellers, which is lovely. I love that one. We did manage to make a matching fabric of Foret by taking out a few of the elements (animals) in the wallpaper. My team are incredibly clever at making that work. I have a long-standing team here.


Do you believe in trends?

I don’t really like trends, but sometimes your design ends up being an accidental trend because it gets a lot of attention and a lot of people respond well to it. Rather than ‘follow’ trends as such, I think you should work with the property, the country you’re in and with the client – what they like and what they don’t like. 


Nina with the late Mark Birley in the dining room of Mark's Club
Talk us through Annabel’s.

I worked on the original Annabel’s. It’s a different club now. It was rather an amazing place and great fun to be part of, mainly because of the owner, Mark Birley, who was exciting to work for. The staff were wonderful, and it was impeccably clean which is unusual for a nightclub! Mark went onto Annabel’s, Mark’s Club and Harry’s Bar before he died.

Did you get much of a design brief?

Annabel’s was up and running when I came to it, and it had designed by another Portuguese designer. I came in as, every year, it was upgraded and that’s how I started. I went onto to do Mark’s Club and then I set upon Harry’s Bar. I think you knew that all three belonged to Mark Birley, as they all had massive pictures hanging on the walls. You could hardly find an inch of wall space! Of course, being Mark’s, the food was impeccable and the service was fantastic. Those are the things that really matter.


Nina Campbell x NEXT Home

We’ve got new collections happening for wallpapers, coming out in September 2024 and January 2025. We also have our range with NEXT. We are doing furniture and all sorts of home things, which has recently launched. The big bang is early next year as we’ve got masses more in the pipeline. We are going to America with our furniture line. Shipping is so expensive, so we are trying to find a solution for that. The NEXT team are amazing, enthusiastic and fun to work with. I think it’s rather fun that these pieces are accessible to all, with the price point being slightly lower. We had a breakfast here with the team recently and my little vases looked so nice on the table. The vases were cheaper than the flowers in them! It shows how you can do things on a budget. 


For more information, visit Nina Campbell


Nina Campbell Foret Wallpaper, £133 per roll
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